If I want to catch a fish, I must tend to my lo‘i. The fishpond will fill up and I can choose correctly.
–Hawaiian verse in Paula Fuga’s Lilikoi
Every time I turn on the radio, I’m reminded that my humps, bumps and ability to teeter on four-inch heels while wearing nothing but a pair of bootie shorts and lace bra makes me an interesting and desirable person. If a girl’s not careful, over time she runs the risk of becoming just a shell of the person she’s meant to be.
Paula Fuga, the 2007 Na Hoku Hano Hano Award’s Most Promising New Artist, understands this way of thinking and wants to change it. Her first annual Lilikoi Fair–a three-day, three-island event will kick off and help pave the way to materializing Fuga’s Lilikoi Foundation–is designed to empower Hawai‘i’s women. The lineup includes Fuga, Tempo Valley (only on Oahu) the sultry voiced Micky Huihui of Ooklah the Moc, New York songstress Sparlha Swa, the conscious New York poetry duo Climbing PoeTree, Hawai‘i’s all-female acoustic trio The Girlas (who were featured at this year’s Kokua Festival) as well as (on Maui only) Kahala of the band Lawa. The fair will also include a fashion show by female designers Kealopiko.
“When I wrote the song ‘Lilikoi’ [title track to her debut album], I was kind of brokenhearted as far as love goes,” Fuga says. “I got concerned, it was like these thoughts that were getting me down weren’t my own thoughts, but other peoples thoughts about me. And I realized that I had to put a stop to that.”
Talking on the phone with Fuga, I got a mean case of chicken skin. She’s soulful and poetic but still has a great sense of humor. We talked story about life for women, like how sometimes you choose not to go someplace cool because you feel like you have to stay home and do something practical like laundry. And when did “girls night out” turn into getting wasted at the club to booty music?
“It’s called ‘Lilikoi’ [Foundation] because I talk about how women need to take care of themselves first,” she says. “I see the lo‘i–which is me, myself. The fishpond is always built at the mouth of the stream and the nutrients flow from the lo‘i into the pond to make it rich and healthy. Then when the little fish swim through the makaha [sluice gate] to eat the nutrients from the lo‘i they get too fat to swim out. Basically it means that people are attracted to confidence and that happiness is very attractive. But for that to happen, I knew I had to work on me first.”
Fuga envisions a “Lilikoi House”—a place where women can hang out, take classes, have office space, and talk story. And she’s taking the first steps to nurturing the foundation that will support it.
“I see big open spaces,” Fuga says. “I want a kitchen where women can cook and a big ‘Lilikoi Closet’ where people can donate clothes and women can come and take what they want and need. I picture a backyard with a clothesline and some washers because I never want someone to not be able to come to a class because the gotta stay home and wash clothes. You know? Come do laundry and better yourself.”
What’s more, Fuga doesn’t want there to be financial requirements on who can come to the Lilikoi House.
“You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be poor,” she says. “Just be a woman.” MTW